SHOPPING, WEATHER AND ANOTHER GUEST...
January progresses at a dizzying speed. This week I finally braved the incessant rain to return a Christmas present (my fault, I chose it, then decided it really wasn't me). I bought a copy of Writers News while I was out and there's an article about Mills & Boon with bags of advice from the delightful Fiona Harper.
Then the dh and I spent the afternoon putting up the new bed. We've finally decided we've reached an age -- and girth -- where we needed something a little bigger than a standard double. We went for a superking -- getting the mattress up the stairs caused a few hairy moments -- but it looks fabulous. I'll be having a lavender scented bath, then it's early to bed for me. :)
Then this afternoon I heard the very sad news about Heath Ledger who utterly enchanted me in The Knight's Tale. One just feels for his family.
Now, though, I have a lovely task, to introduce you to the delightful, award winning Regency author, Elizabeth Rolls, who is my guest this week. Elizabeth has always loved writing, but was drawn to the Regency romance by the Queen of the genre, Georgette Heyer and the story of how she sold her very first book is on her website. But here's Elizabeth to tell you about her new book, A COMPROMISED LADY.
It’s a huge honour being asked by Liz to help celebrate her fiftieth book. Fifty! Wow! If I ever have that many written it will be a major miracle. Coming in the same year as Mills & Boon’s Centenary it’s a double pleasure. Anyway Liz has been kind enough to spread her joy around and she’s asked me to tell you a little bit about my latest UK release A Compromised Lady, available in February. And I’m thrilled to say that it has just won a Cataromance Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Harlequin Historical.
To be perfectly honest, it was the Book From Hell to write. I started it after finishing His Lady Mistress and I told myself that there had been enough angst already in that one. This time I was going to write A Romp. Have Fun. Be Frivolous. Yeah, right. The idea that came to me was of a very shy woman who completely out of the blue inherits a large amount of money and has to run the gauntlet of society as an heiress. A real fish-out-of-water story. I had an opening that I thought was absolutely the bee’s knees and it was all buzzing along merrily.
Then my editor persuaded me to put it aside to work on a collaborative project with Joanna Maitland and Nicola Cornick. That definitely sounded like a lot of fun, so I shelved the book and dived into A Regency Invitation exchanging hundreds of emails with Joanna and Nicola in the process. By the time we finished it and I returned to my Romp, I’d been on a hiking holiday in New Zealand and the DH and I had moved house half way across the country with two children, two dogs and two cats to an idyllic location. A lovely, green valley full of apple and cherry orchards, a peaceful, shady garden . . . perfect for a writer, wouldn’t you think?
Only the dratted book didn’t want to be written. Not the way I’d conceived it anyway. My bee’s knees opening now sounded contrived and wooden. The problem was my hero, Richard Blakehurst, the twin brother of Max, the hero in His Lady Mistress. Richard was quite familiar to me. He was a much quieter, but no less passionate man, than his twin. Scholarly, private and very much in control of his life and choices. But he also had a very strong, must-slay-the-dragon streak of chivalry in him and the story and heroine I was forcing on him didn’t interest him at all. He kept on walking back into his library and slamming the door in my face, a sure sign that I had got things wrong. That and the fact that everything I’d written felt “weary, stale, flat and unprofitable” to quote Hamlet.
I once heard the Editorial Director at Mills & Boon, Karin Stoecker, say, ‘Start with your characters.’ Believe me, you have to listen to them as well!
When finally Thea arrived in my head complete with secrets, fears and enough emotional baggage to sink a ship, I cursed. With Thea on board the plot was shaping up to be just as angst-ridden as His Lady Mistress. Not what I wanted at all. Richard however put his head around the library door, took one look and started co-operating. So I bowed to the inevitable. Start with your characters and then listen to them.
Some of the original concept remained, like Thea’s inheritance and their mutual, interfering godmother Lady Arnsworth who is desperate to arrange a match between them. But in the end none of this was enough for a story. Not for Richard’s story anyway, which is bizarre in way because so much of the story is about Thea and the revelation of her past. I had to dig deep to find out why Thea’s inheritance was so unwelcome to her initially and why she did not want to come to London. I guess that was what Richard was trying to tell me all along. He was a slay-the-dragon sort of fellow and he didn’t want me to waste his story.
In the end Richard didn’t get it all his own way and slay all the dragons. It was Thea’s story and she had to find the strength and courage to sort out her own life and Richard had to support her while she did that. Not that he wasn’t willing to slay all the dragons, but he realised when it was time to stand back and let Thea confront her final nemesis.
Do I regret the Romp? No. Not in the least. What I regret is that I forced myself through about 30 000 words of it before I worked out what was wrong!
Excerpt from A Compromised Lady
Thea took a deep breath and asked huskily, ‘Would you kiss me again?’
He stopped dead in his tracks.
‘I beg your pardon?’
Stubbornly she met his disbelieving gaze. ‘Please . . . if you wouldn’t mind . . . would you kiss me again. P . . . p . . . properly this time.’
He was having difficulty just breathing, but he managed to say, ‘I think I might just about be able to cope.’ Dear God in heaven – what the hell did she mean by properly? Unfortunately, the way – all the ways - he wanted to kiss Thea Winslow came under the heading Improper. Extremely improper. Now was probably not the right moment to point out that he’d been wanting to kiss her properly for sometime. And it certainly wasn’t the right moment to lose all control. She had refused even to listen to his last offer of marriage. So why in Hades did she want him to kiss her?
‘Here?’ he suggested, keeping his voice very neutral. At least his voice was under control. It was about the only part of him that was. Apparently the shreds of his control had been used up keeping that last kiss within the bounds of propriety.
She looked about. ‘Y . . . yes. Here would be nice.’
Nice? Richard took a shuddering breath. Here would be perfect. He suspected that here, in the sun-dappled green of the beech woods, was about to become the most wonderful place on earth. Slowly, he raised a hand and brushed his fingers along the elegant line of her throat and jaw. So soft. So silky. He couldn’t remember any woman’s skin ever being that soft. He couldn’t remember any other woman at all for that matter. She, and only she, filled his memories, his heart, his soul. And she had asked him to kiss her. Just kiss her. If anyone had ever offered him anything sweeter, he didn’t remember that, either. Carefully he cradled her jaw, smoothing his thumb over her lips. They parted on a soft gasp and heat shot through him.
Just a kiss, he reminded himself.
Thea waited, shivering in wonder at his touch, her mind reeling with shock, that she had actually done something so outrageous as to ask a gentleman to kiss her. Properly. Only . . . having asked him to kiss her, she now had absolutely no idea what the next move should be. She didn’t even know what properly involved. Fortunately it was obvious that Richard did know.
His fingers, light and caressing, drew tingling magic from deep within her, melting her shyness in the warmth of his tenderness. Gentle, feather light kisses caressed her temples, her closed eyes. Controlled strength drew her closer, nestling her against his body as that teasing mouth brushed fire along the line of her jaw, until, in sudden frustration, she turned, clumsily capturing his lips with her own.
A moment’s stillness as their mouths met, then his lips moved in a heart shaking entreaty, the silky heat of his tongue tasting, teasing her own lips open. So different, a melding this, and she responded to the heat spreading within her, parting her lips, opening her mouth in acceptance.
His tongue slid deep, stroking, and heat burst inside her as she felt the aching pulse deep within, echoing the possessive surge and retreat of his tongue.
He took, but he also gave. And she could sense his restraint. In the taut strength of his arms, cradling her so tenderly. In the low groan deep in his throat as she tentatively returned his kiss, tasting, probing with her own tongue.
Her bones melted. Every fibre softened in delight and she clung, pressing against him, closer than sunlight, feeling joy and love pour through her, illuminating every dark corner, flinging back the shadows.
Finally, far too soon, he drew back, releasing her mouth and settling her cheek against his chest. She could hear his heart hammering. Beating to the same wild, burning rhythm as her own. His hand stroked her hair, soothing, gentle.
His voice came, utterly calm. ‘Was that what you meant by properly?’
Question for an autographed copy of A Compromised Lady.
What is the name of Lady Arnsworth’s butler? (You’ll need to go to the excerpt on my website for that.)
And for a bonus book from my backlist: Check out the photos page on my website and count how many different creatures we have!
Back to Liz...
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, that's so generous. And since, clearly, we can't have the answers on the comment section, please email your answers to me at liz @lizfielding.com with Elizabeth Rolls in the subject line, adding your name and address in the body of the email along with your answers. But do come and talk to Elizabeth, too. About the Regency, writing and her life in Australia.
Meanwhile, if you can't wait until February to buy A Compromised Lady, you'll find it online at Mills & Boon website -- there's a link on the sidebar.